On Thursday, November 8, the board and management of Cytonn Investment had a session with investors at the end of a weeklong series of meetings. Present at the cocktail were managers and directors of different Cytonn companies, a few hundred of the 3,500 Cytonn investors and a team from principal partner Taaleri Africa.
Prof. Daniel Mugendi, the Cytonn Chairman, spoke of East Africa’s attractiveness to investments as he thanked the management for the growing the relationship with Talleri, which had just resulted in them investing a further Kshs 2 billion in real estate projects with Cytonn as well an interest to buy 20% of Cytonn in an IPO, which the board supported.
Cytonn has several arms including real estate, education, hospitality, asset management (Seriani and Cytonn Asset Managers are being merged next week), high yield solutions, and a diaspora office run from Washington DC. Edwin Dance, the CEO of Cytonn said that funds raised from investors (minimum Kshs 1 million) are primarily (~70%) put into the different real estate projects such as the Alma, Taraji, The Ridge, Newtown (1,000 acres) and RiverRun which are run as independent special purpose vehicles (SPV)] with their own boards and reporting structures.
Dande said Talleri was the first institutional investor to commit to Cytonn as he also saluted some of the early investors and supporters of Cytonn, including the Chairman, who came on board even as its founders were embroiled in a bitter tangle with their former employers.
Kati Salo, a risk specialist with the Taaleri Africa team said they had exited the Amara project successfully and were now back to do more investments with Cytonn and had signed with The Ridge, taking their investment to Kshs 5 billion. She added that they were impressed with the team who had also given them access to management, clients and advisors and had decided to take a stake in Cytonn in the planned listing of the company. Earlier this year, shareholders of Cytonn had approved a listing of the company, and going by the amended resolution, this may not necessarily be on the Nairobi Securities Exchange,GEMS segment.
A dispute between insurance giant Britam and some of its former executives who left the firm and set up a rival investment management firm called Cytonn has been on and off for the last four years. Recently a judge ruled that a criminal case would continue in the courts.
After that decision, Cytonn CEO Edwin Dande issued a personal statement on the long-running case as he set out to absolve Cytonn, which is known for its real estate property developments and financial industry reports, from the case against its four executives who had been at Britam. He writes on the reasons behind the dispute and their departure which he says was due to insider attempts to destroy a Kshs 5 billion portfolio of client funds that they had brought to Britam (excerpts) :
- .. the resignation was due to an operating environment that was fraught with illegalities and unethical business practices that we did not agree with…
- we could not agree to be part of actions such as illegally using client insurance funds to purchase shares of Britam to rescue a failed IPO, we objected to using insurance funds under our management to purchase a failing bank – a transaction that has now led to loss of billions of shillings of investors’ funds..
- ..following our resignation, Britam launched a full-scale assault in an attempt to ruin our careers by filing 7 different suits claiming up to Kshs. 9.8 billion in stolen funds…
- The suits were obviously malicious and designed to achieve only two objectives: first was to punish the former team for daring to leave as a team, and second was to deter competition.
He writes that his statement was released was to reassure Cytonn’s 500 employees and 3,000 clients who had invested over Kshs 20 billion in various investment products.
Britam has been silent on the dispute other than their 2014 annual report which mentions the litigation; The British-American Asset Managers Limited is the Fund manager of a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) which has been mandated to invest in property. The LLP loaned Shs 3.9 billion to various third parties to purchase property. The company on behalf of the LLP has instituted legal suits to recover the above amounts plus costs. The court cases are ongoing and we expect that the outcome will be favourable
Both Cytonn’s managers and Britam have separately settled with Acorn that was a partner in the fund-raising plan before the dispute.
EDIT/ Update October 12: The Court of Appeal granted stay orders on October 11, meaning there is no prosecution action against the four Cytonn executives for now.